For all the good technology does, it brings along adverse effects, especially on the mental and physical well-being of youngsters
High school and teen kids find themselves spending increasingly more time on screens and social media platforms. Anxiety and stress levels have been on the rise. Constant comparisons between peers on social media, fear of missing out (FOMO), and cyberbullying fuel rise in anxiety and stress levels.
However, there is a powerful remedy that can help combat these challenges and is readily available for everyone's i.e. spending time outdoors.
The Adverse Impact of Social Media
High school and teen kids are part of a generation that grew up surrounded by social media. While these platforms connect individuals globally, they often come at a cost.
Virtual worlds are an environment where young minds are subjected to continuous scrutiny. Many complain of feeling inadequate vis-a-vis their peers and a general lack of self-confidence. Cyberbullying is not limited by geography or gender - anyone can assume an identity and harass others. Teens are particularly vulnerable.
Media platforms are full of perfectly sculpted influencers promoting dangerous practices and products. Teenagers constantly face body image issues, and the pressure to maintain an unrealistic online persona. This contributes further to heighten their stress and anxiety.
It is widely known that good sleep helps clear your mind and gets you ready to take on the day. But the addictive nature of screens and social media can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation. The constant exposure to screens can also cause eye strain.
When you are scrolling, the only body parts involved are your hands, eyes and brain. This is not enough mobility for a teenager's body. It is common to find them sitting in front of screens for hours. The more sedentary your teen is the more their physical well-being is affected.
The Mental and Physical Benefits of Going Outdoors
Spending time in nature offers unending mental and physical health benefits. Adventure activities, however small, counteract the adverse effects of excessive screen time.
Here are some of the advantages:
Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Nature has a calming effect on the mind. Being surrounded by greenery, and sounds of nature - birds, the wind, the rustling trees - can lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone). It is a great way to feel refreshed.
Increase Physical Activity: Besides diet and rest, physical movement is the third end of the health triangle. When you walk or hike in the mountains, you are right away reducing the risk of obesity. Physical activity keeps health issues associated with sedentary behaviour from affecting your wellbeing.
Boost Mood: You rarely hear stories of how someone had a really bad time outdoors (unless they get sick or injured). Almost everyone comes back saying what a grand outing they had. Exposure to sunlight or the natural elements triggers the release of serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood. If we feel happy and content in the mountains, you can give serotonin the credit.
Cultivate Mindfulness: Nature invites everyone to be present in the moment. Teenagers could do very well with a dose of disconnecting from the constant demands of the virtual world. Roaming among the tall trees, the lush grass or dunes of sand are purposeful ways to have a conversation with yourself.
Fun Connections: Adults and teenagers alike are looking to make new social connections. And the outdoors provide the best facilitation for this activity. Everyone is enjoying, sharing and conversing without looking at their phones. It is a time to bond with peers, create lasting memories, and strengthen social skills.
Enhance Creativity: Outdoor activities are immersive. Your senses are completely taken over by the feeling of awe. And since it is not your usual environment, you are attracted to things around out of curiosity. This frame of mind is a big creativity booster.. When you don’t have to do 17 things at a time, your cognition fires your creativity multifold. Writers, academics and thinkers are known to take long walks in the countryside exactly for this reason.
Being Outdoors Can Combat Screen-Related Issues
The outdoor experience offers a stark contrast to the virtual world, allowing teens to break free from the pressures of social media. By spending time outdoors, children and young adults can:
Emotional Well-being: Connecting with nature, with the community and friends enables children to process their emotions better as there is time for sharing and seeking insights. Accepting that there are different ways to grow can lead to improved emotional well-being and resilience.
Perspective: Stepping away from social media allows kids to gain a broader perspective of life, appreciating the beauty of nature and the simplicity of the world around them. In its minimal way, nature shows the magnificence of creation, which is inspiring for young minds.
Self-Confidence: So you hiked up that hill with the rest of the pack? Accomplishing outdoor challenges helps build self-esteem and self-confidence, making young ones feel capable and empowered.
Finding Balance: Engaging in outdoor activities helps establish a healthier balance between screen time and real-life experiences, reducing dependency on technology. Spending time in mountains, in the rivers or in forests creates memories of wonderful times with friends and family. It is these memories that they recall most when they seek a source outside the virtual world to recreate happy times.
High school children and teenage kids today face an onslaught of digital media that they had no part in creating. Their mental and physical health is impacted by the stress and demands social media puts on young lives.
Getting them outdoors is an opportunity to counter these pressures and make a quick win. Looking away from screens and immersing themselves in nature can let teens form lasting and meaningful connections with peers.This exposure to nature is vital for high school teens in their growth as a well adjusted adult. Lead by an outdoor loving community, MyTrailPals is an invitation for everyone, regardless of ability or experience, to spend time in nature.
The Active Circle and MyTrailPals have joined hands to create an active connected community for high schoolers. Both organisations have similar missions to create a movement to help live physically and mentally healthy lives. This is an opportunity to connect with peers in a meaningful way while spending time outdoors.
MyTrailPals encourages you to take the first step and join us in exploring natural areas around us. Let us show our future citizens that it is worth preserving to ensure a brighter and happier future.
For a more in depth study and finding read this: How Nature Supports Teen Mental Health | Newport Academy